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Welsh Government urged to think up fresh ways to improve connectivity

Credit: PA

Future subsidies to landowners in Wales should be conditional on them allowing mobile phone masts on their land, according to a National Assembly Committee.

A new report from the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee calls on the Welsh Government to consider innovative ways to connect the last 4% of Wales without broadband access.

The committee is also asking the Welsh Government to consider reforming the planning regime to improve mobile phone coverage across the country.

Other recommendations from the report include establishing a repayable grant or equity scheme to allow small operators to fill broadband gaps and involving the communities without broadband in the process of finding a solution. It said regulator Ofcom needs to use all its powers to meet its target of 100% mobile coverage, which should be a condition of future auctions of the right to transmit.

Russell George AM, chairman of the committee, said: "Connectivity is no longer a 'nice-to-have' in our daily lives.

For many people and businesses we spoke to during our inquiry, it's now considered an essential service - like electricity.

Wales's landscape and population spread poses challenges in a world where market forces determine broadband and mobile phone coverage.

While the Welsh Government's Superfast Cymru broadband scheme, delivered with BT, has connected high numbers of people, there remain pockets it has not be able to reach, and this is echoed with mobile phone coverage.

Our recommendations will help Wales to develop a digital infrastructure which is as fast and as reliable as other parts of the UK, and is fit for the future.

Filling in the gaps so that everyone can receive a good service is the minimum requirement. More can be done to help people take up those services once available and to take potentially controversial steps to ensure that the connectivity many of us take for granted is available to all.

– Russell George AM, Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee